Universalism, international auxiliary languages, and social justice

The universalist premise behind Esperanto is often described as “idealistic” and “utopian,” and can be summed up with its interna ideo (internal idea): “On the foundation of a neutral language eliminate the walls between the nations and make the people accustomed to each other, so that each of them will see in their neighbor only a human and a brother.” (Zamenhof, 1912, Parolado antaŭ la Oka Kongreso Esperantista; translation my own.)

In a sense, looking at everyone as a human, ignoring differences and focusing on similarities, sounds like a great idea. This premise is far from exclusive to the Esperanto movement, and defined many social justice movements in the 20th century. But unfortunately, it has not brought the justice it has promised. Inequality does not go away just because you ignore it. For example, if I associate with a group of abuse victims, and the group ignores LGBT issues because they’re a movement for abuse victims only, that doesn’t change the fact that when I apply for PTSD therapy or housing for battered women, my being transgender and bisexual can cause me to be discriminated against, and it has. Add the fact that I am neurodivergent and disabled, so my insurance options are limited, and the situation looks even worse. My issue is not that exactly that I’m LGBT, nor that I have PTSD, nor that I’m neurodivergent, nor that I’m disabled: it’s all of these things at the same time.

Last year I wrote a post, “How universal can a language be?”, which sparked a discussion of how an auxlang that was truly inclusive would be made. I think as a fundamental principle, any auxlang designed for the world we live in right now, rather than a future utopia, must acknowledge that there are differences between people, and that these differences often have a combined effect greater than the sum of its parts (intersectionality). This means allowing for self-definition, allowing for the people who have experience with something to decide how to define themselves, instead of following the gospel of someone who lived over a century ago and didn’t even see the problem with saying that all humans should see each other as brothers.

The criticism often raised by traditionalist Esperanto speakers is, “Wouldn’t this make it devolve into dialects?” Such a belief stems from 19th-century attitudes about language, where dialects were seen as terrible and unfortunate things, as “impurities” arising from the one true language. The ideal auxlang, in my eyes, allows for dialects. What does it matter if different social groups speak differently, if they understand each other? Dialects are not a problem, but snobby and pretentious attitudes towards so-called “proper language use” definitely are. And anyone who is analytic about Esperanto would recognize that even “fundamenta Esperanto” already has quite a few dialects, reflecting different schools of Esperanto instruction as well as viewpoints on things like the 15th rule (neologisms) and pseudosuffixes (e.g. changing -kcio to -ado, when underlying roots didn’t previously exist).

The goal of any auxlang that strives to create a just world, should be to decentralize the dominant culture, and to eliminate cultural dominance. Of course, it would be ridiculous to claim that a language could do this. Such a language must only be part of a broader movement, a means to the creation of a just world. And it must be considered replaceable whenever it proves to be unjust, or whenever people have become too rigid about it. The goal is not linguistic stability; the goal is justice. The goal is not to make people see each other as equals, but to make people equal.

Egaleco, tolerado, kaj la usona prezidenta baloto de 2016

La baloto de 2016 en Usono montras, kion multaj el ni jam sciis: ni neniam estis egalaj; ni estis tolerataj. Se onia egaleco dependas de la registaro, tiam ĝi ne estas efektiva; ĝi estas falsa. Kiel oni povas esti egala, se onia egaleco estas konstante minacata de revoko, depende de kiu el du partioj regas onin?

Aliseksemaj, blankaj, cisgenraj, kapablaj, riĉaj viroj neniam alfrontas tian danĝeron, kaj tio ne estas hazardo. La fundamento de la usona socio estas neegaleco: kapitalismo, blanka supereco, aliseksema normismo, patriarkeco, cisseksismo, kapablismo, ktp.. Tolerado kaj repremo estas nur du flankoj de la sama afero: fundamenta neegaleco, forigebla nur per fundamenta ŝanĝo.

Efektiva egaleco eblos nur per kreado de la vere justa sistemo, kiu anstataŭos la nunan, kune kun faligo de la nuna sistemo. Ambaŭ devos okazi.

Laadan.club – Láadan community

Raye Chell Mahela

Laadan Club screenshot

I’ve set up a community website for Láadan as a way for us to gather together in one area, without having to make Facebook or Reddit or Livejournal accounts. This can better respect peoples’ privacy but still allow participation in our community.

The site contains a forum and a community blog right now, so if you’re registered for the forum you can also post your Láadan works in the blog. There’s also an RSS feed page, so if you know any places that post about Láadan and want me to add the feed to that page, let me know!

If you’re interested in conlangs or Láadan, if you’re learning Láadan or want to learn it someday, or want to discuss preserving and expanding the language, please join us!

Laadan.club

OK, here’s my plan

Raye Chell Mahela

protest

This is my plan in response to the election results, to try to mitigate the damage as best as I can. I’m sharing this so I can get feedback and more ideas, or just to give other people ideas who aren’t sure what to do.

I will vote with my wallet – Donate and boycott

Money moves things in this country, for better or worse. I have already signed up to have monthly donations going to Planned Parenthood and ACLU. It’s not a lot, my work situation is kind of unstable at the moment, but it’s something.

Likewise, I’m going to stop eating meat produced by the American meat industry. I’m going to stop spending money on a product that utilizes the work of undocumented immigrants and never gets punished by the government, instead the workers are punished. And if there are any more industries that I should be avoiding, let me know.

I will be vocal

I have always choked at confrontation and I’ve always told myself “I’m just not good at debate”. I’ve allowed myself to be quiet because I couldn’t find the words, or I was afraid of what people think. This has to stop. Moreso than convincing other people of your point of view, you need to be vocal so that those who are affected see that they are not alone. To me, that is infinitely more important. We still need to teach, but decreasing the alienation is important.

We need to hold discussions that fight apathy, complacency, to fight ignorance about the issues (because some people have the privilege to live in a bubble unaffected). We need to fight the “me and mine” mentality. We need to fight the idea that it’s OK for white people to just hang out with white people, to retreat to their homogeneous groups of people just like them.

The strategy that I’m trying out when dealing with confrontation is to ask questions. I’m not good at debating, but maybe if I break down their point of view enough by asking “Why?”, maybe I can find something for them to think about.

I will demand

Simply voting in this presidential election has failed, but we have to keep fighting. If the government passes a “bathroom bill” to restrict who can use what bathroom, then I’m going to demand that every business that I spend money at provides gender neutral bathrooms, ESPECIALLY if they are single-stalls. I’m going to demand equality when I hear about other businesses discriminating against people. I will email the state representatives and demand that they work for justice, because even though I didn’t elect them, they still work for me. At the same time, I’m going to try my best to educate those who did vote for them, so that they can also reach out to the representatives and tell them that every person must be treated with respect.

I will build safe spaces

I will continue working to make my classrooms a safe space, and to create safe spaces for others. I have only had one class since the election, but I will explicitly and verbally let everybody know that I respect them, no matter what their religion, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability is. I will let them all know that I will listen to them and advocate for them. I will let them know that I am with them.

I will fight to make the spaces that I am part of safe, by talking to the people responsible for that space, and by calling out inappropriate behavior in the space.

I will stand

I will make an effort to go to protests. I will continue to monitor police officers when they pull somebody over, to make sure they know they’re being watched and to make sure that who they’re interacting with is safe and respected. I will try my best to be physically present wherever I am needed to show solidarity with those being affected.

I will humanize

I will work with my Moo team to build games that humanize people. I think that too many people can shrug off the hardships of others, whether they’re in another city or country, or if they’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or of a different culture. Again, we need to stop this “me and mine” mentality, and we need to make it blatantly obvious that we expect human rights and respect for every person. EVERY PERSON. Regardless of whether they’re under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, or from another country, or don’t have a job, or has gone to prison before. Everybody has the right to live, to eat, to sleep, to be safe, to respect.

I will find other peoples’ works about people who aren’t just white men. I will share these works with others, and amplify. We need to tell more diverse stories.

I will vote

I am also making a commitment to being a more active voter. I will try to volunteer as time permits, but I will vote more than just once every four years.

I will listen and learn

I will continue talking to people around the world and learning about them. I will continue listening and supporting them. I will share feeds to these voices with people I know.

I will stay

We cannot leave this country. Not everybody who is affected can leave this country. We need to stay here, and protect our neighbors, and fight to make change. We cannot abandon this country, and we cannot abandon the people here.


That’s all I have at the moment. If you have any other ideas, let me know. We have to stay diligent and fight. We need to demand election reform – I’m sick of this winner-take-all system!

If you are interested in places where you can donate to, please check out this link:
A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support

You need to keep up with the news and keep an eye on the Trump administration’s agenda. Here’s where to start:
Here Is What Donald Trump Wants To Do In His First 100 Days

As I’ve been saying since I was a child: Make lunch, not war.


Trump venkis pro tio, ke la usona maldekstro dormis kaj sonĝis pri neevitebla progreso.

Antaŭ unu jaro mi rendevuis kun alia transgenra virino, kiun mi renkontis per aminduma retejo. Mi diris al ŝi, ke mi maltrankvilis pro la populareco de Donald Trump. Ŝi diris, ke li neniam estos prezidento, nek eĉ iĝos kandidato. Mi respondis kun la mezuroj de publika opinio kaj ŝi diris, “Tiuj ne pravas; ili nur mezuras la opiniojn de homoj, kiuj emas respondi al ili. Tio estas fantomo por distri vin de la problemoj pri Hillary Clinton.”

Mi demandis, “Ĉu ne estas tre zorgige, ke li sufiĉe popularas eĉ por gajni neprecizajn taksojn de publika opinio? Ĉu la ekzisto de liaj subtenantoj mem ne estas problemo?”

“Ne,” ŝi respondis. “Homoj ĉiam kredis je stultaĵoj, sed la mondo tamen pliboniĝis.” Ŝi tiom malestimis min pro tio, ke mi eĉ pensus ke li povus iĝi prezidento, kaj mi tiom koleris pri ŝia neserioza konsidero de la cirkonstancoj, ke ni neniam denove vidis unu la alian.

Tio estas tipa ekzemplo de la usona maldekstro: homoj tro memkontentaj por vidi la venontan ŝtormon, tro ĉinikaj por eĉ kompreni ĝian seriozecon, kaj tro egoismaj por organiziĝi unu kun la alia kontraŭ kunaj problemoj.

On missing conlangs…

Raye Chell Mahela

Dang, I’ve been so busy lately, and life is transitioning and too much stuff is going on. In the meantime, I’ve forced myself to stop learning languages or making content for conlangs so that I can focus on managing all the work I have to do, but I miss it. Conlangs have this weird sort of addictive quality, though, so I can’t jump back into it right now, otherwise it might hurt the rest of this semester – at least until I have more free time, or am ahead of all the work. Oy. :(